Peru boasts some of the world’s best rivers for whitewater rafting. Some of these are located near Cuzco, while others can be accessed from Arequipa, our focus for this post. Arequipa boasts powerful rivers which formed the two deepest canyons in the world, Cotahuasi Canyon and Colca Canyon. These rivers are ideal for those with rafting experience and the desire for unforgettable adventure. Since the rivers of Peru cater to different ability levels, today we’ll be talking about the best trips for beginning, intermediate, and expert rafters…
Beginners-Intermediate: Located in the countryside of Arequipa, the 5-mile section of the Chili River that stretches from Charcani to Carmen Alto offers Class III and IV Rapids which require no prior experience. The river itself is found just a few miles outside of Arequipa city proper, between the Chachani and Misti Volcanoes, and waters the city’s fertile surrounding valley. Morning and afternoon options are available, and begin with a 40-minute drive along the riverbank. After receiving safety instructions and orientation, you’ll be ready for a two-hour rafting adventure!
Since the first descent in 1981, relatively few people have experienced the Colca River, which formed the canyon of the same name. Now, however, you can arrange to go on white-water rafting trips that take you past black salmon, otter, and endangered Andean condors so large that they seem to block out the sun. The stunning natural landscape and views of pre-Incan terraces and repositories along the cliffs all make the Colca River a great choice for such an excursion.
It takes seven hours to reach the canyon village of Sibayo (in Ipo) from Arequipa. The actual rafting is only a couple of hours, however. This allows it to be offered as a one-day excursion. The best time to go is between March and November, as the Colca River’s water levels may be too high and the rafting too difficult in the other months. During this time, the rapids are Class II to III, which is fine for beginner and intermediate rafters.
Experienced Rafters: The more remote Cotahuasi River carved the deepest canyon in the world (Colca Canyon being the second deepest). Just arriving at the river requires a rugged drive, followed by a 2-day hike past the Sipia Falls and to the village of Velinga. For your efforts, you can enjoy a trip along incredibly pristine Class IV-V rapids, enjoying a rarely visited and entirely untouched ecosystem. Along the way, the gigantic canyon will unfold before your eyes, with Condors and Vicuñas adding movement to the landscape. What begins at Velinga in the Andes will end at the Pacific Ocean, with stops along the way to appreciate some overlooked Inca ruins. These rapids are Peru’s most challenging, so unfortunately they are only suitable for experienced rafters.
Pirwa has its own hostel in Arequipa, located in the city’s historical center, which provides the perfect base for exploring the city, the volcanoes and canyons of its countryside, and those exciting rivers.